by Laurie Jakobsen
The spotlight on gender and ethnic diversity has never been harsher, as people are demanding real change. Last Friday, in response to the backlash regarding the all-white nominee slate for the 2016 Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced changes to its board and voting structure to double the number of women and minorities in the organization. Mind you, that will still be a pretty small number, as a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found the organization was almost 94% Caucasian and 77% male, with both Blacks and Latinos at about 2% each.
Earlier in the day, I was greeted with the new issue of Bloomberg Businessweek on my doorstep, with the cover story “Coders Like Us,” looking at the efforts of the historically black college Howard University to get its students into Silicon Valley jobs, where only 1% of the technical employees at companies like Google and Facebook are African American. In two years, only three graduates have been hired: two at Google and one at Pandora. Professor Charles Pratt notes that, on the one hand, it may take Howard years to gets its program to be a top “feeder school” for tech. However, he also feels that there may be an “unconscious racial bias” because the students don’t “fit the profile of what they think of engineers. Even though people think of Silicon Valley as a big meritocracy, I don’t think that’s how it works.”